Asking Questions Like a Coach: 7 Ways to Get Started

March 1, 2017 David Witt

Illustration concept clipart questions queries dialog questionsLeaders should be more coach-like. I’m probably not the first person who has penned those words in a blog post. My guess is that you’ve heard that advice before—possibly even tried being more coach-like with your team members and direct reports but ultimately realized that it takes a lot of time to do well.

One of my favorite coaching books, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier just might be the solution every well-meaning manager has been looking for. Stanier, an acclaimed executive coach and former coach of the year in his native Canada, shares seven questions any manager can use to increase their leadership effectiveness—especially during One on Ones.

I originally read the book last summer and I picked it up again when I heard that the book was celebrating its one year anniversary (see special offer below.) I don’t want to give it all away here—you really need to read the book to appreciate the nuance and genius of what Stanier shares, but in a nutshell the seven questions are

  1. What’s on your mind? A brilliantly simple way to open up a one-on-one conversation, invite people to share, and get at what is most important in the moment
  2. And what else? Three little words that open up possibilities, insights, and increased self-awareness
  3. What’s the real challenge here for you? The question that slows down the rush to find the first answer instead of solving the real problem
  4. What do you want? Taking the time to discover the need and the desired outcome that makes charting the journey easier
  5. How can I help? Insisting on a clear direct request that you as a leader can respond to
  6. What will you say no to if you’re truly saying yes to this? Life is about choices. This question identifies the tough trade-offs.
  7. What was most useful for you? Gathering feedback and extracting value from the conversation

If you are a well-meaning manager who wants to have more-productive conversations with your people, try these questions. Bonus: They also work great for those work-related conversations at home—you know, right after you ask, “How was your day?” You’ll see the power of these questions immediately.

Coaching-HabitFor those interested in learning more about the method behind the magic, be sure to check out all the praise and positive reviews on Amazon. See why Dan Pink, Brené Brown, and Dave Ulrich, along with 500 other positive reviewers, are so excited—including me!  Special Anniversary eBook offerThe Coaching Habit eBook will be available for purchase for just 99 cents on Amazon from March 1 to 3.

The ability to conduct successful One on Ones is a key leadership competency. Learn how asking these seven questions can help you be the manager you want to be.


About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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